Date of Meeting: 17 July 2018

Meeting Organizer: United Nations Sustainable Development Group

ISJC Staff Present: Jacob Hevenor

Reporter: Jacob Hevenor

Which SDG does this topic cover? 11

Type of meeting: High Level Political Forum Side Event

Brief summary of presentation of information made

Each presenter on the panel shared about their experience relating to SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities. The moderator was Achim Steiner, the Administrator of the UN Development Programme.

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN

  • Rapid urbanisation in the developing world is forcing us to come up with inventive new sustainability solutions all the time.
  • The next decade is key – we have to make sure that cities are sustainable, but also that their economic potential is maximised.
    • 72% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from cities. On the other hand, 82% of global GDP comes from cities.
    • Poverty is growing more concentrated into urban areas as subsistence farmers move, and slums are the most vulnerable communities to climate change.
  • We The UN Development Group (UNDG) has been renamed UN Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG) to deal with these new threats. Cities will make or break the drive to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

Basim bin Yacob Al Hamer, Minister of Housing of Bahrain

  • With rapid urbanisation in a small country, the ministry of housing has been very busy.
  • Whole new towns have sprung up outside the city centres to manage immigration. They are good testing grounds for policies for sustainable communities.
  • Bahrain continues to experiment with ways to achieve Goal 11 all while encouraging continued economic growth.
    • Our main takeaway is that people’s mindsets must shift as they urbanise. The modern housing issues will not be solved just by dumping money into it.

Célestine Ketcha Courtès, Mayor of Bangangté, Cameroon

  • We often say, “Leave no one behind”. But the local level has to implement the 2030 agenda in order to accomplish this.
  • Women make up 52% of Africa’s population, so let them be heard and let them act!
  • The same is true for local leaders – they understand the issues better than the central government or the UN. Give them the opportunity to create solutions.
  • The citizens also must take part in developing solutions to meet the Goals. Civil society and the private sector are valued contributors.

Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, NYC

  • The UN is a place to hear about and amplify the best practices from cities around the world.
  • NYC has developed OneNYC, its own sustainable city plan mirroring Goal 11. It emphasises growth, equity, sustainability and resiliency.
  • Youth engagement is critical, so we developed the Youth Ambassadors Program.
  • OneNYC has shown that change is possible. Early childhood education rates have tripled and air and water quality is cleaner.
  • We release annual progress reports to the public. Please read and help keep us accountable!

Parks Tau, President of United Cities and Local Governments

  • The international community needs boots on the ground (local governments and organisations) to accomplish the work, but also to be a listening device. We must make sure the concerns and suggestions of local people make it to the decision makers.

Violet Shivutse, Chair of the Huairou Commission

  • Through movement building (mobilisation campaigns), we hold local-to-local dialogue to generate action plans. Grassroots groups of women in my community have launched programs to make people aware of the Global Goals.
  • The process of Huairou is to identify gaps in our communities and take them to local authorities. We sit together and set priorities and action plans. The ability is there, we just have to get people excited about making change.
  • How our process works: we first have locals identify local priorities. We don’t even mention the SDGs. Once we find the gaps, we show that these same problems are identified in the SDGs. Then we ask, What does the UN say about this?
    • This puts it in a more relevant context, because the base is the local issue rather than an abstract goal.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat

  • We must rethink many things in the age of modern cities.
    • Rethink municipal finance, to move it online and make it more efficient.
    • Rethink education, to make it a lifelong process of training and make it accessible to all people groups
    • Rethink availability of data, so that it respects privacy but uses data for growth.
  • Countries such as Bolivia and Iraq have reached out to UN-Habitat to help them with national urban policy. We commend those governments for their proactive stances.

Henk Ovink, Minister for Water Affairs, the Netherlands

  • We want to Build Back Better, through five Cs for resiliency.
    • Commitment, not just by national governments but at the local level
    • Cross-cutting. To avoid repeating mistakes, we learn from success in other areas.
    • Collaboration. The more perspectives, the better.
    • Consistency. Even after 2030, development will continue. Keep moving forward.
    • Capacity. Without capacity, data and knowledge are useless.


What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

The most interesting portion was how the Huairou Commission identifies local priorities. The process reminded me strongly of The Salvation Army’s Faith-based Facilitation (FBF) process. I think the Army learns a lot from identifying local issues first, and then bringing in the international conversation around those issues, if applicable. We must remember that the SDGs are not a monopoly of government officials. Anyone and everyone can achieve them in their own communities.

The Army has always had a strong urban presence, and that will only grow in importance as populations become more concentrated in cities. Cities need resilience in infrastructure, resilience in governance, and resilience to face climate change, but they also need spiritual resilience. Let us not be afraid to bring the key ingredient – the Gospel – to these areas.


Web links for more information New York City’s pioneering sustainability plan The home of the Huairou Commission’s advocacy work, including local governance and the 2030 Agenda.

Tags: United Nations, SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities